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Fashion with Compassion

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Actress Gul Panag wears a creation by Anita Dongre.
  • India

    This article was published in Atelier Magazine's Dec. 2011 issue.

    The power of fashion can be quite far-reaching, therefore it is little wonder that it is used often to promote social causes as well as environmentally friendly fabrics. Organic fabrics which are made from khadi, banana, pineapple, milk, soya and jute are eco-friendly and have turned into a rage with buyers who want to protect the earth. Designers all over the world have also teamed up with various social movements over the years and made an impact on people with these very important messages through their collections on the ramp.

    Anita Dongre, one of the most successful designers in India with several labels and a chain of stores around the country, has been in the business of fashion for over two decades. She has always brought together fashion and different relevant causes that have made responsible fashion statements.

    Last year, her collection and tie-up with the Shop for Change tag added a lot of value to not only her brand but the customer too, who was able to help in furthering and improving the life of the farmer. The Shop for Change tag is the latest project that encourages fair trade from the cotton farmer’s level. This stamp on garments ensures that farmers can be self-reliant and that business is handled in an ethical manner, so that everybody from the farmers, to the fabric makers as well as the garment brands and designers benefit. This is a label that is beneficial to all concerned in the fashion business as the Shop for Change Fair Trade is a “not for profit organisation”, built on a successful international model. The fair trade certification was established by Traidcraft Exchange (UK) and International Resources for Fairer Trade (India) and is funded by the European Union and Dutch Foundations ICCO and Hivos.

    Dongre was the first designer who started working with organic fabrics for her Grassroots label collection and now her 100 per cent Shop for Change Fair Trade certified cotton collection has shirts, dresses, skirts and tops that are ideal for India’s hot, sultry weather.

    Dongre’s Grassroots label, which she presented at the Wills India Fashion Week some years ago, is aimed at respecting the environment. “It was a sub-label that I created but today it is one of my biggest sellers since I use organic cotton and village crafts for embroidery for not only this label but whenever possible for my other labels too. This has appealed to my clients who are aware of the help these organic fabrics give to the farmers and how important the Shop for Change tag on the garments is,” informs Dongre happily, who works with an NGO farm in Andhra Pradesh for the organic cotton. Her Shop for Change collections are from cotton produced by farmers from the Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company.

    A couple of years back, Dongre had also worked with Birla Cellulose when she created a beautiful line of eco-friendly knit garments, which were ideal for semi-formal wear. More recently at the Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2011 show, Anita presented a gorgeous collection of bridal wear inspired by Rajasthan. But it was her finale creation – a white mull lehenga embroidered by rural craftswomen of Mijwan, a village in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, and made from fair-trade organic cotton with intricate chikankari work that was applauded by the audience. The gorgeous diaphanous white lehenga, choli and red dupatta took over four months to produce and was truly a vision of beauty.

    When fashion comes together with a meaningful project it makes a serious impact. Anita Dongre is definitely making that important socially responsible fashion statement that is helping all concerned.

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